Religion gone mad

Gotta love those wacky zealots. Always good for a laugh and a handful of civil rights violations. Let me say this right off: I am not a religious man. Quite the opposite in fact. But I don't call myself an 'atheist'. My good friend and collaborator MN has made the excellent point that the word 'atheism' implies that 'theism'- or religious belief- is somehow mankind's natural state. Which I don't believe is true. So, while we hunt around for a new word, I'll also say this: I respect people with genuine religious beliefs. It ain't my bag, but if it works for you, then awesome. But my sympathy for the religious runs out the second they a) attempt to impose their beliefs on me, or b) use religion as an excuse to trammel on the rights of others.

Fortunately, today's headlines have furnished me with two excellent examples. In Sudan, a female British schoolteacher is facing 40 lashes for allowing her students to name a stuffed bear 'Muhammad'. Apparently this contravenes some kind of 'religious law'. Now that's just medieval. In the first place, the charge is patently ridiculous. The teacher didn't intend to insult Islam. It was part of an innocent class project. But the law is totally dogmatic, and an insult is an insult. To a dude who died like 1400 years ago. Who maybe wouldn't have minded. The point is, I should be able to call a bear "Jesubuddhashivmohweh" if I want, and not worry about some religious sociopath coming to whip me. Furthermore, are we actually still whipping people? Is that something that makes any goddamned (so to speak) sense at all? You might as well move into a cave. There's no 'god' in a punishment like that. That's just human barbarism, full stop.

Example the second: the Turkish government is considering charging the publisher of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion for attacking 'sacred values'. I guess we shouldn't be too surprised. You can also go to jail in Turkey for insulting 'Turkishness'. Remember when crimes were based on actual events, not weird abstractions? I didn't really like Dawkins' book...I think there are more elegant ways to refute religion than being a total jerk about it. But still, I'd say freedom of speech is pretty essential to a, you know, tolerably functional society. So Dawkins should be allowed to be a jerk, and his publisher should be allowed to spread his jerkiness.

Also, if our prophets are so powerful, can't we let them fight their own battles? Let people name bears after them. And if they don't like it, and as I understand the morality-for-reward system of modern theology, they will have plenty of opportunity to sort it out. If I were religious, and this is just me talking, I'd rather believe in a deity that can stick up for itself.

Of course, all of this takes place against a wondrous tapestry of religious fundamentalists ruling the USA, women being whipped in Saudia Arabia for being raped, and any number of religious conflicts raging across the globe. So, yeah. Good game, religion. You're doing a bang-up job out there.

bear.JPG

Aaaaah! Blasphemy! Cuddly, innocent blasphemy!